Wednesday, February 27, 2013

And (s)he showed me things many beautiful things, that I hadn't thought to explore

(Just in case you were wondering, this is not a sponsored post in any way shape or form.  Sometimes, I just like sharing stuff I like.)

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Love these.  The perfect way to keep our bathrooms (and Marilee's kitty litter room) smelling nice.  Also the perfect way to find my way around the bathroom in the middle of the night, seeing as how actually turning on the bathroom light invariably wakes me up to the point that it takes me a good 30 minutes to fall back asleep again.

Love these.  No heartburn over stained clothing, and hours (okay--minutes) of creative fun for the younger set.  Win/Win!

I think this is self-explanatory.  I was in a Bosch family, growing up.  Then one day many many years ago, my roommate Lyn (I think it was Lyn right Heidi?  Or was it you?) introduced me to the marvel that is a KitchenAid Mixer.  My life would never be the same.

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After enduring mornings of tears from Heather and frustrated sighs (and frustrated words) from me, Eric discovered this and gave it to me for my birthday last year.  It's a winning gift if I ever saw one.  Doing hair now takes a little bit longer (the brush isn't as thorough on the first time through as a regular brush is), but the tears have gone waaaay down.  I'll take it.

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We got this for Heather for Christmas.  It's our new favorite family game (beating out Memory).  It says it's for age 6, but as long as we're prepared to help Heather out here and there, she does just fine.

5  points for the name of the song
2 points for the name of the musical

2 points for the name of the character who sings these words in the musical
other points awarded by whim

Monday, February 25, 2013

We'll prepare and serve with flair a culinary cabaret

Today I share what is probably my most beloved, and almost certainly my most used recipe.  I call it (drumroll . . . . )  Killer Spaghetti Sauce.

Really, it's a rigatoni sauce recipe that I took from the oft-mentioned Utah Festival Opera cookbook.  If you're tired of hearing about the book, never fear.  The fact is, once I write about this one, I'm pretty sure we'll be done with all of my favorites from that book.

If you happen to be my neighbor or a local friend, it's quite possible that you either 1)have already had this sauce or 2)will have this sauce within the next year or two.  That's because here in Cantwell-ville, we've been trying to be more consistent in opening our home to others lately, and one of the ways we've been doing that is having biweekly supper guests.  We generally do it on Monday nights, and follow our meal with a short and casual (it has to be short--Heather's attention span isn't long enough for anything more) family home evening activity.

Doing this has been awesome! We've all loved the increased comfort and camaraderie that comes from sharing a meal and conversation together, and making all that happen has really helped us all feel more familiar with our neighbors.  I highly recommend it.

Anyway, because we generally do all of this on a Monday evening, and because Monday evenings tend to be a little overwhelming for me, what with the house being in "post-weekend-mess" state, and just the general "Monday-at-work-ness" that happens at the beginning of the work week, it's essential that this meal be something easy, something I'm not going to stress over, something that's yummy, but also almost auto-pilot if you will.

Enter Killer Spaghetti Sauce.  I throw all the stuff into the pot on Sunday afternoon and let it simmer away for a few hours.  If I'm feeling somewhat ambitious I'll make a loaf of Heidi's easy French Bread, but as often as not, I pick up (or have Eric pick up) a loaf at the grocery store on Monday.  Put together a salad or veggie plate, reheat the sauce, boil the noodles, set the table, pull out the ice cream for dessert, and we're good to go.  Easy peasy.

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Don't judge me by that drip pan okay?  Cleaning them is on my list.  Unfortunately, it's a long list. It may be awhile.

We use Angel Hair Pasta.  Regular spaghetti is much too thick for our ultra-refined palates.
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Sometimes I'll butter the bread, sprinkle it with garlic powder and salt (since for some reason I haven't gotten around to replacing our garlic salt), and bake it for 5-10 minutes at 350 or so.  Voila!  Garlic bread!
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Veggie plates are pretty easy.  I like the veggie dip recipe here.  I've used fat-free greek yogurt before as the base, and even for fat-free, it's pretty darn tasty.
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Anyway, here's the recipe for the awesome sauce:

Rigatoni (a/k/a Killer Spaghetti Sauce)
(UFOMT Cookbook, Michael Ballam’s recipe)

Brown and season ½ -1 lb ground beef well.  Drain excess fat.

1 onion and ½ green pepper (chopped), in ½ cup beef bouillon 5 minutes.

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp A-1 sauce
1 Tbs Olive oil
1/8 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 can tomato sauce with bits  (I often use my own frozen tomato sauce here.  However, when I do that, I have to be sure to let the sauce simmer for an hour or two, because my sauce tends to be quite thin unless it's condensed that way.  Also--I generally throw in a bit of my frozen roasted tomatoes or roasted tomato paste.  Sooooo yummy!)
¼ tsp parsley flakes
garlic salt
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp course ground pepper

Return meat to pan, serve over noodles, with coarse ground pepper and plenty of cheese. 

Note:  Sometimes (as in the picture shown above), I find that I've accidentally cut the onions up too big to be acceptable for the likes of picky children.  When that happens, I just run the sauce (once it's cooled) through the blender to smooth it out a bit and hide the onions and green peppers.  If it's just our family or our family plus grown-ups though, I leave the sauce as is.  I like it a little bit on the chunky side, personally.

5  points for the name of the song
2 points for the name of the musical

other points awarded by whim

Friday, February 22, 2013

Everybody says don't walk on the grass, Don't disturb the peace, Don't skate on the ice.

They're not making our (free) community outdoor ice rink this year so we've had to get creative.

Did you know that with a plate, a little water, some food coloring, and a couple of hours you can make your own mini pet ice rink?

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Betcha never would have guessed, huh?  Aren't you glad you stopped by today?  Me too.

Midwinter Musical Madness!  (see details here)
We're starting out with a toughie, but in my defense, there aren't a whole lot of songs out there that deal with ice skating, you know?

5  points for the name of the song
2 points for the name of the musical

2 points for the name of the composer
other points awarded by whim

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Midwinter Musical Madness--Are you ready?

So, it's Midwinter!  It's time to once again begin the funniest thing we do here in quirksville!

Yes folks, I'm talking about Midwinter Musical Madness.  We start the next time I post something here.

Here's how it's going to go down this year:

1--I'll write a blog post and title it using a phrase from a song in a Broadway musical.

2--Players will receive a named amount of points for being able to correctly identify the name of the song, the name of the musical, and at times other facts. The players must arrive at their guesses by consulting their own memories, or, if they happen to have access to an actual paper library of musicals, they can use that as well.  They may not use search engines or other technological miracles to help them on their way.

3--Players may also vie for points that will be give "by whim"

4--I haven't determined prizes yet.  Naturally bragging rights, your mug on the sidebar here, and the warm feeling that you'll get from helping a bunch of people get through the doldrums of cold February.  But, will there be more?  Maybe.  Let's be honest though--what you really want is the bragging rights.  It's all about the bragging rights here.

And now for some helpful hints:

a.  In the event that a musical/song combination is too difficult for players to guess, there will probably be hints given, followed by the opportunity to play for a reduced amount of points.  So, when you think you don't know what the answer is, you might want to hold off on checking search engines, allowing you to play along in round 2, should there be a round 2.

b.  Speaking of rounds, there will almost certainly be a lightning round.

c.  A word to the wise--for the past few years, there has been one player who has offered up a literary gem right at the end of the game, securing for herself a large amount of "whim" points, and often nearly winning it all because of it. If you are not this player, you might want to keep that in mind and either 1)start working on a literary gem of your own, or 2)put together a really big lead along the way, so that you can't be 'out-kicked' at the end, or 3)resign yourself to possibly being 'out-kicked' at the end.

And there you have it.  If you're still lost, feel free to click on the midwinter musical madness label, and you can see the transcripts if you will, of our past matches.

Good luck, and see y'all soon!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love on the Ice

A couple of weeks ago, Heather and I took a little afternoon jaunt and went ice skating.  Oh my goodness, definitely the highlight of January for me.  (Which isn't saying much--January wasn't exactly a stellar month this time around (is it ever?), but still--every month needs a highlight, right?)

Anyway, we had an interesting time. Ice skating isn't exactly my most developed talent, and I was a little apprehensive about how I'd do until I got my "ice legs", particularly when I would have a little girl hanging on my hand(s) all the way.  

The answer to that question is, "Not well."  We made it about ten skate steps before I saw that there were kids with walkers out on the ice, and decided that was the answer for us as well. We immediately but tenuously turned around, headed back to the front desk, laid out two buck-a-roonies for walker rental, and headed back on the ice.

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Best two bucks I ever spent.  

From the moment she got her walker, Heather was in love with ice skating and she was all smiles, all courage, all fun.  She swooped from one side of the ice to the other, beaming, laughing, smiling, dancing, and singing.  Honestly, that girl was nothing less than a forty-pound ball of skating joy.  Watching her enjoy herself so fully drove all thoughts of aching ankles, pinched toes, and all other middle-aged physical hardships completely from my mind*, and we skated, nearly non-stop for two hours.  

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Heather can hardly wait until we go back.  I'm looking forward to it as well, although by the time you rent skates and the walker and pay for the ice time, it ends up being the kind of thing that we can't exactly swing every weekend (unfortunately).  All the same, we'll be back.  It might take us a while, but we'll definitely be back.

As I anticipate it though, something tells me that watching Heather discover ice skating for the first time was something special, something with happy aspects I won't see again on the second or third or tenth time. I'm tempted to be saddened about this---she is growing up much too fast for my taste after all---but when you come down to it, even if I only get to experience her first skate one time, the fact is, I got to be there the first time. I saw that joy, I felt that happy pride, I was a part of it all. That's big, bigger than I ever expected it to be.  

The whole experience reminds me of the thoughts and feelings I had about my motherhood journey when I wasn't even two weeks into it all. Back then, I was almost in awe of the idea that now I had this little girl to live with me, to stay with me, a girl who would look to me and her father for direction, care, love, you name it. The more I realized that, the more in love I was with the idea of it all, and then as it all unfolded, with the absolute reality of it all as well. 

Four plus years later?  It is one million times better than I ever imagined it could be. 

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*I did sweet-talk my way into a loooong foot-rub from the master of massage that is Eric later on in the evening though. Thank heaven!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Random Photo Friday--where the magic happens edition

Oh yeah babies.  I've got a winner for you today!

On our way home from our mission we  FOUND THE BIRTH PLACE FOR STONE LIONS.  What a find.  Some day I will divulge the location.
Your faithful lion hunter,
Scott Packer

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I'll tell you.  Super duper duper cool!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Meanwhile . . .

Remember how I wrote all about how we Cache Valleyians earn our summer?  Remember how I said that January was the month when we learned the lion's share of our summer?

Yeah, um, February?

Let's just say that we're still earning it.  


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Yeah---that snow is higher than my kid's head!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Christmas in January--Woo-Hoo!

This post is primarily for my brother, my sister-in-law, and four of our nieces and nephews. However, the rest of you are welcome to read it as well, if you are so inclined.

As you might remember, (because apparently I just can't stop writing about it--you would think it was some huge tragedy for us or something, which wasn't really the case) we weren't able to travel to parts south during the Christmas break this year, something that we do every year, something that we were planning on, something that was so sure to happen that any gifts that we had coming to us from Southern Utah were saved for our arrival.

But then, we didn't arrive.

So, a few weeks later, my mom sent our gifts up via the school board courier system (which really means that she was at the school board convention with local school board members from all over the state, and sent our presents home with a lovely woman on the Cache Board).

I was expecting a bit of money from my parents*, and a gift or two from the Robert & ShaLiece fam, because it was their turn to give to us this year, after all.

However, to my joy, what we actually received was a showcase showdown of Christmas goodness!  We each received our own custom designed apron.  You would think that would be enough, but nay.  In addition, the care package included:

1 pair Hello Kitty Pajamas for Heather
1 pair Cinderella Pajamas for Heather
1 gift certificate for a dozen cupakes at our own Temptation Cupcakes
1 awesome book of dress-up/stickers/design your own island girl
1 fabulous cookbook of fairy treats

See why I called it a showcase showdown?

Heather and I were so excited about it all that the next free day we had, we decided to spend it enjoying our new gifts.

This is the documentation of that day.

We started out with a family photo, modeling our fabulous aprons.  Eric's handy dandy Chef knife and wire wisk are unfortunately obscuring the most important feature of his apron.
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So, here's a little close up:
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The carrots are in homage to the fact that Eric's favorite dessert is carrot juice, a fact that, since it's been made known among my family, has been the catalyst for much teasing from the brothers.

(As if there is ever a need for a catalyst for brotherly teasing in my family--but, still.)

We had a normal morning, during which we went through the fairy cookbook, chose a recipe, and made up a list of ingredients that we didn't have on hand.

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While we were out picking up the ingredients, we stopped for a little cupcake-to-go action.
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Then it was baking time.
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After the batter was made and the cakes were baking, Heather took the time to experiment with her island doll.  Definitely a big hit.
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Finally the cakes were baked, cooled, frosted, and decorated.  As we put them together I couldn't help but marvel at how our amateur skills had come together and made a creation that was a near replica of the Fancy Fairy Cakes that were put together by the professional fairies in the "Fairy Cookbook" land.

See what I mean?
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Kidding.  Soooooo kidding.
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Still--awesome day.

Thanks so much Robert, ShaLiece, Kaylee, Dallen, MaKell, and Ty!

*The bit of money came, as well as a family-size jar of Nutella, some awesome dishtowels that hang on the stove, a gift certificate for Eric and I to join the rest of the adults in the family on an Alaskan Cruise (!!!!!!!), and about six sweatshirts (of semi-strange colors and styles) that my mom had found on clearance at some point (like--super-duper clearance, she left the tags on them and they were $2 to $3 each) and remembering how I love the feel of a new sweatshirt, had purchased them for me.  They aren't fit for public display really, but I've been wearing them on homebound evenings, and reveling in the comfortable softness.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Random Photo Friday--Secret Stash Edition

Heather has about half of a dresser drawer allocated for her "secret" toys--i.e., toys that are so special to her that she doesn't want to let her friends know about them or play with them.  

The funny thing is, she's found that it's not all that fun to play with toys all by yourself (don't we all find that out sooner or later?), and so more often than not, she marches her friends up to the secret drawer, and they all have a great time raiding the treasure trove, completely negating the purpose of having a secret spot in the first place.   photo IMG_2198.jpg

Isn't it nice when what's fun to do and what is kind/right/courteous to do end up being the same thing?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Another Food Post? That makes two in a row--

I've been going through about a two-year search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I grew up on the knock-off Mrs. Fields Cookie Recipe that my mom discovered, and I LOVED them.  However, for some reason, they don't do it for me anymore.  Neither does the recipe that my friend Brian W. made for us when we were on our RV Arches trip many many years ago, although at the time, I thought they were about as good as they get.

To be honest, my very favorite chocolate chip cookies are the ones that Heidi makes.  Unfortunately for me, Heidi is more of a "a pinch of this and a pinch of that" kind of cook, and I've never been able to duplicate her masterpieces with my "by the book" approach.  (I've even tried the "pinch of this" method, but I must have awful cooking instincts because without fail, every time I try to experiment or improvise in the kitchen, I end up with a nearly unedible mess.)

Well--I'm pleased to say that my search has come to an end!


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
(if you aren't in the mood for mint, you can switch out the mint extract for vanilla and it's just fine.)

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour  (sometimes I split this half white/half wheat)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 cup of butter at room temperature (I often microwave mine for 10 sec. as I never remember to take it out early!)
1/2 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 tsp. of mint extract (optional)
1 cup of dark or semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix it all together--starting with the butter and sugars and egg and extract, then the dry stuff, then the chips.  

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so. (Or if you are impatient like me, put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes)

Bake at 375F. for 8-9 minutes for soft cookies, or 10-11 minutes for more crispy cookies.  

This is a small recipe; it only makes about 18 cookies. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Best Sandwiches West--I mean EAST of Cheese Plus in San Francisco

So, awhile back, as in, towards the first part of January, my mom was going to be in Salt Lake City for the annual convention of the Utah School Boards Association.  My father was not going to be with her, and she had a room and two beds at the Little America.  So Heather and I determined that (seeing as how we didn't get to see any Corrys over Christmas Break) we would head to Salt Lake for part of the weekend, and spend the day and night and some of the next day with her.  

However, Salt Lake City was hit with what turned out to be one of many large snowstorms on the very day that we were planning to go, and we decided that a chance for some weekend fun wasn't worth the risking of our lives this time around.  Heather was disappointed   So was I.  

Which is all a long way to introduce the following story:

Since we weren't "on vacation" in Salt Lake, we decided to do a little splurging in Logan.  I told Eric and Heather that I wanted to go out to lunch on Saturday, but I didn't much care where we went.  Eric was mulling over a few ideas, when about five minutes later, Heather piped up, asking if we could please go to the place that has the really good sandwiches, the place that daddy goes to when he is at work?

Eric and I were completely stumped.  Really good sandwiches?  A place daddy goes when he's working? We scanned our brains for Smithfield sandwich shops and came up empty. I asked about Subway, and Heather said no.  A few other options, also met with a negative response.

And then, I remembered how last Valentines day, (as in like a year ago) Heather and I had met Eric and his dad at Logan's Heroes for our traditional Valentine lunch. Eric and Wayne had come from work, and it was the place where there are really good sandwiches.  It was as good a guess as any.  We decided that we'd try it, see if it rang any bells, and if it didn't, well, at least we were well posed for a delicious sandwich or two.

So, you can imagine my joy, amusement, and happiness when as the three of us walked in the (somewhat ghetto) back door, Heather took one whiff of the store and happily exclaimed, "This is the place!  It smells just like the place I was talking about!!"

"that place where we go when Daddy has to work with really good sandwiches"  "and salty chips"  "Oh, this is the right smell!  We are in the right place!"

I'll say one thing for our girl.  She knows a good sandwich when she tastes (or smells) it.

(Get the Roger's Special. I used to be a Spicy Italian girl until Eric persuaded me to try the Roger's Special.  Yumma, yumma, I'll never go back.)

Friday, February 01, 2013

just a few random conversations heard around Cantwell-ville lately


These first two are proof (as if we needed any) that I'm a bit of a hard-nosed mother.

Heather:  I don't want to have (eat) that!
Me:  Is this a restaurant?
Heather:  No!
Me:  Okay then.  This is what we're having.
Heather:  Hmph.

* *

Me:  Heather, put your dishes in the dishwasher please.
Heather:  Mom, I don't really like to do all the work all the time!
Me:  Heather, this is not a restaurant, it's a family.  In a family we put away our own dishes.
Heather (putting away her dishes):  Hmph.

The funny thing about this is, one of Heather's favorite games is when I feed her a snack as if she (and whomever happens to be over hanging out with us) IS in a restaurant  I call her "Madame Cantwell", she calls me "waitress" I exaggeratedly seek to meet her every need, etc.  We play the game at least once or twice a week.  Poor kid.  No wonder she gets confused. 

* *

Me:  Eric, you've got to watch this clip.  It's the best moment ever in biggest loser history.
(I put on the clip shown here, laughing hysterically at the appropriate moments.  After Eric has endured it once, he goes back to his own project, and I go ahead and watch it not once but two more times, laughing hysterically and joyfully each time.)
Eric (indulgently):  You are such a gomer!

(Just to be clear--we all know that I am not a gomer.  Puleeze.)

* *

Marilee has been a little stir-crazy/wild with the cold weather and how it has essentially removed her ability to enjoy any time outside. This has frequently resulted in random running, jumping, fake biting, hiding, etc.  Our favorite (to watch) is when she goes into the bathroom and jumps in and out of the bathtub seven or eight times in succession within about 10 seconds.  
Heather:  Mom, when Marilee acts like this, we call her crazy cat.  (Shouting at Marilee) CRAZY CAT!!

* *

Me:  Heather, who is your best friend?
Heather:  You mean on earth?
Me: Um, yeah.  Do you have a best friend that's not on earth?
Heather:  Of course!  Jesus and Heavenly Father!

* *

And there you have it.

image courtesy of katymcc
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